Pet causes and narrow-minded politicians

Kevin Drum has a pet peeve about politicians that is very much my own, too.  Drives me crazy.  Drum:

Politicians all seem to have their own pet causes, and all too often they’re related to something personal. A congressman’s wife had breast cancer, so he supports funding for breast cancer research. A senator’s kid has multiple schlerosis, so she supports MS research. A governor’s state gets hit with a hurricane, so he supports a huge federal aid bill for hurricane damage. This goes on and on and on.

But too many politicians, and this especially includes self-described fiscal conservatives, simply can’t draw the obvious conclusion from all this: namely that you shouldn’t support help for the poor and the sick and elderly only if you personally happen to know someone who’s poor or sick or elderly. All of these people exist whether or not they happen to be family members.

Amen!!  I also thought Dick Cheney’s position on gay rights is the near-perfect example of this.  Does anybody seriously doubt for a moment that Cheney would be opposed to gay rights if not for the fact that his daughter, Mary, is a lesbian?!  The idea that you should only pay attention to or care about something because it happens to someone you know is just an amazing failure of imagination.  And for a politician who’s supposed to be truly representing their constituents, it’s offensive and preposterous.

Stand your ground

Very nice NPR piece on “Stand your Ground” laws, i.e., the basis under which George Zimmerman believed he was acting in shooting Trayvon Martin.  Short version: stand your ground = more homicides.  In friendly chart form:

Comparing States

This chart, based on data provided by Texas A&M researcher Mark Hoekstra, compares homicide rates in states that have stand your ground laws with homicide trends in states that don’t have the laws. The vertical y-axis represents an adjusted homicide rate that takes into account a state’s population, pre-existing crime trends and other factors.

Graph

Hoekstra recently decided to analyze national crime statistics to see what happens in states that pass stand your ground laws. He found the laws are having a measurable effect on the homicide rate.

“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.”

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.

“We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws,” he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole.

NPR kindly interviewed the NRA’s house researcher, too.  Shockingly, he doesn’t agree with the results.  Nor, of course, is his research subject to peer review.  Oh, and if that’s not enough, there’s also this:

And in murder cases, Donohue says, the laws might end up being a refuge for some defendants.

“I’ve been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, ‘Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,’ ” he said.

It’s the NRA’s world and we’re all living in it.

Photo of the day

This is a little different.  Apparently there’s a Wall Street Trader who has taken to using his spare time to photographically document prostititues in a Bronx neighborhood.  It’s quite an interesting story.  And compelling photos, too:

Chris Arnade

Pam, 46, was raped at the age of 11. She now walks the streets, trying to make enough for heroin or crack. During her last stint in jail — four years for robbery — she wrote a series of 26 children’s books, one for each letter of the alphabet. “My dream is to publish the books and be able to use the money to support my paraplegic brother in-law.”

What Jesus said about homosexuality

Friend linked to this on FB and I knew exactly what it was going to show.  Love it anyway:

Of course, you could do a similar pamphlet on abortion, too.

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